Bonum Certa Men Certa

Inside the Minds of Microsoft's Media Operatives — Part V — In Deep Denial About One's Harm

"Working behind the scenes to orchestrate "independent" praise of our technology, and damnation of the enemy's, is a key evangelism function during the Slog. "Independent" analyst's report should be issued, praising your technology and damning the competitors (or ignoring them). "Independent" consultants should write columns and articles, give conference presentations and moderate stacked panels, all on our behalf (and setting them up as experts in the new technology, available for just $200/hour). "Independent" academic sources should be cultivated and quoted (and research money granted). "Independent" courseware providers should start profiting from their early involvement in our technology. Every possible source of leverage should be sought and turned to our advantage."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Series parts:

  1. Inside the Minds of Microsoft's Media Operatives — Part I — Bishops in Rooks
  2. Inside the Minds of Microsoft's Media Operatives — Part II — Justifying a Career as a Microsoft Mouthpiece That Destroys Lives of People With Actual Facts
  3. Inside the Minds of Microsoft's Media Operatives — Part III — Attacking Real Security, Promoting Lies and Fake 'Security'
  4. Inside the Minds of Microsoft's Media Operatives — Part IV — “Same Sort of Journalistic Bias Infecting Russia at the Moment”
  5. YOU ARE HERE ☞ In Deep Denial About One's Harm

Summary: Source-burning Microsoft boosters, who vainly think of themselves as "journalists", respond to allegations of bias and dissemination of Microsoft falsehoods

ABOUT a week ago we showed the typical excuses leveraged for and by Microsoft spinners inside "the media" -- that sorts of spinners who constantly help Microsoft spread lies (e.g. about the layoffs covered here earlier this week).

How do they justify that to themselves? Do they think that being rewarded with "access" by Microsoft is a sign of them doing a good job? Or just a sign that Microsoft views them as media pawns? "Bummed that I didn't hear back from you yesterday," said the so-called 'journalist' who burned a Microsoft whistleblower. "The interview with Brad [Smith] went pretty well, will send you a link when it's live."

So being rewarded by Microsoft is a sign of good work? Is that what they say to themselves? Clickfraud Spamnil thinks that corporations getting PR services (and defrauded regarding the number of views) is "success"... but that's hardly the way to measure merit.

We'd like to dissect his rather poor justification of what he deems to be journalism when in fact what he is doing (and have done for decades) is just classic churnalism. He helps spread lies, usually for Microsoft.

Our response is in-line below:

I understand your perspective. By chance, I am reading a book that gets into a lot of these issues. It's called Losing the News, originally published in 2009. In many ways it's timeless; in others, it's outdated, Regardless, it's a good read and a reminder of the power of journalism done right.

Reading a book about news does not qualify oneself; moreover, what he does on a daily basis causes people to lose the news. Instead of seeing the facts they just see lies from Microsoft being perpetuated. The recent layoffs are a good example of Microsoft interfering with the news, aided by its media "assets" who 'plant' false stories.

When you say "critical" in the context of news coverage, which definition are you using, #1 or #2?

1. Inclined to find fault or to judge with severity. 2. Skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc.

Those are pretty much the same thing, but the Microsoft boosters look for ways to justify falsehoods. They relay lies, based on the assumption they cannot prove that Microsoft lies are, in fact, lies.

From the context of your various messages to me, I think you are using #1. Am I right? If so, I disagree that this is journalism. It's biased in its own way, and bad for everyone involved, including readers, investors, democracy, etc.

When a criminal commits a crime, should we not call this spade a spade? Well, those who make a career of Microsoft apologism prefer to think Microsoft is always innocent. Then, they get rewarded by Microsoft. They perceive this as a badge of honour for "good work"...

Wait and watch.

I believe journalism is #2. The effect on the subject(s) of the story may be positive, negative, neutral, or a mix of these things. Doesn't matter. That's the point. We can't rely on a journalist who finds fault by default, just as we can't rely on a journalist who is positive by default.

This is laughable coming from this person. Fact-checking was never done; instead, it was a stream of puff pieces, guided and led by Microsoft. And now running to the perceived morality, saying he cannot "find fault by default" even when witnessing Microsoft's long track record of crime.

I get it: you believe I am the latter. I hear you, and throughout these exchanges I've kept my mind open to your criticism, even if it has been more #1 than #2 at times.

It's a lot worse. The 'articles' are usually Microsoft plants, i.e. ghostwritten or partly ghostwritten fluff handed over. So he's basically responding to a straw man argument here.

However, I can tell you that favoring the subject of a story is never my intent. I can't speak for the profession. All I can do is tell you how I approach things. I do my best to be clear-eyed, well-researched, thoughtful, tough, fair, objective and ethical, and I do as much as I can to help my [redacted] colleagues be the same. I can give you many examples. Do I also fall short? Absolutely. You and I agree on that. I need to improve. I want your help and tips on the subjects that I cover.

The subjects typically come from Microsoft. The slant too is Microsoft's. Also, he has a history of taking money from Microsoft, so there's that aspect too.

By the way, better terms commonly used in the industry for this type of coverage would be watchdog, investigative or explanatory journalism. The book does a good job of laying this out as part of what the author calls the "iron core" of news.

The author in question does none of the above. He does Public Relations wrapped up as "reporting" and in the process he ousts truth teller, causing them to suffer for the 'crime' of refuting lies told by Microsoft directly and through media "assets".

Whatever term you use, I think calling this type of coverage "a thin veil of unbiased objectivity" is cynical.

No, it's not. It's just precisely what it is!

You're entitled to your opinion.

But I will oust you and cause you to be fired if you say true things that expose the lies I tell for Microsoft.

But based on my first-hand observations, working in newsrooms since I was a teenager, these types of pieces are the pinnacle for most traditional journalists. It's what most of us strive to do all the time. Again, speaking for myself, I don't get there nearly as much as I should. But it is flawed to simply presume that failure in this regard amounts to bias or malicious intent.

He does not view himself as a malicious, malevolent actor, but he helps people who commit crimes and destroy people's lives.

Dismissing good journalism as nothing but a mechanism by "compromised" outlets to create cover for favorable coverage is unfair to people who devote their lives and careers to trying to do this job in the right way.

What job? Microsoft PR? That's hardly a job, it's a disservice to the public.

Just so you know, independent of any of this, I asked for an interview with Brad Smith last week to ask questions about a variety of recent news from the company, and it looks like I'm going to be interviewing him today. You will see this as a sign of the machine at work. Again, you're free to interpret the situation as you want. Personally, I think it's a function of 20+ years doing my best to cover a difficult beat following the principles of #2. Maybe you would see it as a combination of the two: their machine outgunning my attempts to do good journalism.

The only reason Smith would speak to him is to reward him for the PR, expecting no hard questions. It's a loyalty club.

At any rate, here's my question for you: what would you ask Brad Smith that would get him to concede, acknowledge, or (better yet) reveal something meaningful? How would you phrase the questions? Keep in mind: they need to be tough, concise, and incisive (#2) but they can't simply be biased or combative for the sake of it (#1). I'm happy to take your ideas into consideration.

Smith only speak to people he controls, such as media "assets". So this question is rather meaningless.

I'm on a deadline to come up with my questions, so please respond this morning if you want me to consider your ideas. Regardless, you'll be able to judge my questions for yourself. My work is out in the open for any type of criticism that you or anyone else would like to offer.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Talking to these Microsoft boosters, hoping they'd realise the damage they've done, is rather pointless. They live in their own universe, convinced (maybe by affirmations from Microsoft) that what they do is journalism when in fact it's low-grade propaganda. So it's better to expose the compromised "work", not try to convince them that their work is compromised. They're in denial about the whole thing.

In the next part, the final part, we'll show the response from the whistleblower burned by the above so-called 'journalist'.

"A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select die panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed -just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvellously independent doesn’t it? In feet, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands."

--Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

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